Sen. Mark Kirk took to Fox News yesterday to illustrate the disconnect between him and most Americans when it comes to the GOP's budget plans for Medicaid and Medicare. The radical Republican budget plan, introduced by Wisconsin's Rep. Ryan Paul, would essentially phase out Medicare, turning it into a semi-privatized, voucher program within 10 years. Medicaid funding would be dropped significantly under the plan as well.
Polling shows that Americans are overwhelmingly against these proposed reforms, with 80 percent of voters saying they oppose cuts to Medicaid and Medicare. When presented with that information, Sen. Kirk reached back to the 1980s to explain why he thinks the reforms are needed and would work:
HOST: You mentioned entitlement reform, but I want to put a poll up on the screen that just came out. By a huge margin, Americans oppose cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. Those are the numbers there. They're pretty astonishing. Seventy-eight percent oppose cutting Medicare. Are you on the wrong side of that issue?
KIRK: No, I think good politics is always good policy. And remember, Democratic Speaker Tip O'Neill and President Ronald Reagan faced numbers even worse than that just prior to Social Security going bankrupt in 1982, and they put forward bipartisan reforms along the lines of what I think we should do again that saved the system. I think seniors know that these programs have no value if they go bankrupt and can't protect them. And I think the kind of reforms that Reagan and O'Neill did in '83 will save Social Security and save Medicare, because a bankrupt program can help no one.
Watch Sen. Kirk's remarks here.
The problem with Sen. Kirk's argument is that he is comparing apples to oranges. Social Security reform efforts in the 1980s were just that, attempts to look for ways to fix the system. The difference between today's GOP plan and what took place in the 1980s is the fact that Rep. Ryan's "reforms" resemble more of a path to dismantling the system as opposed to mending it. Additionally, the GOP in the 1980s was also open to at least entertaining the idea of tax increases, while Sen. Kirk and his cohorts are against doing so, even though 64 percent of those polled support a tax increase for those earning more than $250,000. Once again, it appears that Sen. Kirk and his fellow, like-minded Republican counterparts are more invested in promoting their own interests than those of the people they were elected to represent.